Letter From Paris

Hollande’s Last Chance

By 9.2.14

Maybe the third try will be a charm for President François Hollande. After doggedly attempting to apply socialist dogma for his first two disastrous years in office and bringing the French economy to its knees, he reshuffled his cabinet again this summer. It has dawned even on this Socialist Party apparatchik that governing by tax-and-spend while subjecting businesses to an incomprehensible thicket of hostile, hobbling regulations—the Labor Code now runs to over 3,000 pages—won’t work. That inventing a new levy here, tweaking an old one there, creating still another special handout, is ruining not only his term in office, but the country as well. His third stab at forming a viable administration, coming only 147 days after the second one, set a record for the shortest duration in Fifth Republic history and makes the Italian government look rock-stable by comparison. The sweat on the beleaguered presidential brow is now visible to all.

Dictator Watch

Cairo and Moscow: So Happy Together

By 8.19.14

While America’s attention was focused on Kim Kardashian’s new book of selfies, the Ebola virus, and events in Gaza, Iraq, Ukraine, and Ferguson, Missouri, a single 130-word Wall Street Journal dispatch last Tuesday described events in Sochi, Russia, that might portend a dangerous shift in the allegiance of one of America’s most important allies.

Though it missed the attention of most news editors, newly elected Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi arrived a week ago Monday in Sochi for two days with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the Black Sea coast.

The duo toured the Olympic cross-country ski center, but not until Al-Sisi got to view an elaborate and tempting display of Russian military hardware that Putin had kindly set out before him, right there at the Sochi airport. Al-Sisi was barely out of his plane before he was gazing upon a massive array of armored vehicles, missile systems, and other weapons goodies — all of them available for sale. 

Why the Vatican Backs Airstrikes in Iraq But Not Syria

By on 8.18.14 | 10:51AM

The Vatican, working off Catholic doctrine of just war, has announced that it condones American military intervention in Iraq, the Washington Times reported last week. The Holy See’s ambassador to the United Nations, Silvano Tomasi, is quoted as saying, “Military action might be necessary,” and calling for, “intervention now, before it is too late.”

The move to endorse American airstrikes against the militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, diverges from Vatican policy in Syria. Last year when President Obama considered intervening with airstrikes in the Syrian civil war, the Vatican condemned the plan. It disapproved, too, of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Fear for the safety and freedom of Christians and other minority religious sects in Iraq today has altered the assessment.

Just war theory is perhaps best summarized in paragraph 2309 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It reads:

The Iraq Spectator

The Collapse of the Liberal World Order

By 8.14.14

President Obama has ended the Iraq War.” So says the White House blog, the headline preserved in the amber that is the Internet. The date: October 21, 2011 at 2:18 Eastern Daylight Time. Along with a video of the president saying this, a statement on the site has been helpfully provided, partially excerpted here:

In 2008, in the height of the presidential campaign, then-Senator Obama made a promise to give our military a new mission: ending the war in Iraq.

As the election unfolded, he reiterated this pledge again and again — but cautioned that we would be “as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in.”…

Now, that promise will be wholly fulfilled. Today, President Obama announced that the rest of our troops will be home by the holidays.…

But this moment represents more than an accomplishment for the President. It marks a monumental change of focus for our military and a fundamental shift in the way that the our nation will engage in the world….

The War on Terror Spectator

So Begins World War IV?

By 8.12.14

Is World War IV on the verge of beginning? With President Obama in the role of the reluctant leader whose actions have invited global catastrophe?

As the 100th anniversary of what is known to modern history as World War I is marked, it is perhaps time to recall that once upon a time the “Great War” as it was called in its day was known in the aftermath as “the war to end all wars.” The phrase was associated with President Wilson, who also said the U.S. needed to join the fight in Europe to “make the world safe for democracy.” 

Dictator Watch

Argentina: Where a Default Is Not a Default

By 8.6.14

In Plato’s famous model, the three elements of the well-ordered state correspond to the three aspects of the soul, with the rational aspect governing the will and the appetites.

But nobody ever called Argentina a well-ordered state, and the souls of its people are scarcely healthier: Buenos Aires has eight times as many psychologists per capita as New York City. So substitute Freud’s psyche for Plato’s psuche. Argentina, then, should be understood as a nation driven by the passions of its id, without the constraints of superego that govern other societies. Where our politics conform to a history of constitutional democracy, Argentina has the fraudulent altruism of Juan Domingo Peron. Peronism isn’t simply demagoguery; it’s a form of nihilism. It is the Seinfeld of government, a politics of nothing. Where we have checks and balances, they have nothing to oppose the dark whims of elected dictators.

At Large

The Young and the Restless in Beijing

By 8.4.14

Everything in China appears is big. The population is big. The cities are big. The people’s aspirations are big. The state’s ambitions are big.

The battle over the future also is big.

I recently returned from several days in the People’s Republic of China. It’s always a fascinating place with a future as yet unresolved. The country is growing economically, but no one really believes the government’s statistics. The “one child” policy has created a birth dearth that may leave the PRC old before it grows rich. Rising domestic confidence has yielded growing regional assertiveness, sparking an ever stronger negative reaction from once complacent neighbors.

Almost certainly Beijing will end up an influential global player. But when—and whether—it will battle America for world domination is far less clear. The PRC’s international future is not yet determined.

What the Hell, Hamas?

By on 8.1.14 | 4:31PM

There was never any doubt that, for Hamas, continued violence in Gaza was the real path to victory. A mere 90 minutes into a three day ceasefire, as Israeli forces moved to destroy a tunnel—an activity permitted by the truce—Hamas militants emerged from the tunnel and engaged. Two soldiers were killed, one was captured, and the ceasefire was ended.

Palestinian authorities contest the timeline set forth by Israel, asserting that renewed Israeli attacks began before the kidnapping of the IDF soldier. Israel has dismissed these claims completely and vowed to rescue their man. The violation of the ceasefire has been condemned by the White House, and prompted the UN to question Palestinian good faith in the pursuit of peace.

Libya’s Not Dead Yet

By on 8.1.14 | 12:27PM

Libya's post-intervention history has been so bleak that it is being compared to Iraq and cited as proof that American interventions make things worse. But that is probably a hasty judgment.

Freedom Watch

The Evil Mind of John Kerry

By 8.1.14

John Kerry sees no evil. The Israeli media is catching on.

Last night, the news arrived that Secretary of State Kerry and UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon had issued a joint statement announcing a 72-hour truce between Israel and Hamas. Reported the Washington Post

GAZA CITY — Israel and Hamas have agreed to an unconditional, 72-hour humanitarian truce to begin Friday morning, diplomats from the United States and the United Nations announced Thursday, potentially paving the way for an end to the 24-day-old conflict.

Got that? John Kerry has brokered a truce that will be “paving the way for an end to the 24-day-old conflict” between Israel and Hamas, the latter who has openly sworn to “eliminate” Israel. If you believe that this is “the end” of a conflict that is a mere 24 days olds (???), there is always that bridge in Brooklyn for sale (these days waving a white surrender flag). John Kerry has brought peace in the Middle East? Really?